Here's a welcome break from today's gloomy cinema.
is a French soufflé of the old school, a romantic comedy set in Paris' arty district, where neurotic writers and actors wring their manicured hands. Charm, it seems, comes altogether too easily to the French, and Gallic whimsy only serves to prop up infantile Anglo fantasies about the ceaseless glamour of la vie Parisienne. Still, there's an exception to be made for Danièle Thompson, whose warmly irreverent fluff comes enlivened by her earthy refusal to take the cult of the artist at face value. Here, a television soap actress (Valérie Lemercier) obsesses about landing a movie role, while a concert pianist (Albert Dupontel), exhausted by his punishing tour schedule, slips away to play to children with cancer and bumps into an old acquaintance, a cabbie turned art collector (Claude Brasseur), who's putting his multimillion-dollar collection up for auction. Thompson clearly knows and loves this neurotic milieu, but her sensibility is resolutely (and commercially) populist, and in short order, a newly arrived country bumpkin (played by Cécile de France) is turned loose among these broody narcissists to act as both ministering angel and brisk reality check. Avenue Montaigne
doesn't pretend to be deep, but given the tendency of current cinema to milk our glum mood for all it's worth, we could use the break.